What the Aunties did. May Edition

An update, and an apology from Auntie Michele.

Part of my job as Aunties Chair is to keep you all updated with what has been achieved each month but I’ve been swanning about on the other side of the world for a bit and have missed officially reporting back for a few weeks. Auntie Jackie, who is made of superhero stuff, has done a grand job of keeping in touch with everyone and just generally “doing the do” but she doesn’t sufficiently blow her own trumpet so here’s a list of the good things accomplished. And please – after you’ve read this have a look at Jackie’s post of the goals we have as we look forward into June. That’s here


The biggest thing was that Jackie had her birthday in May, but it was everyone else who got the presents! Jackie made it her birthday wish to raise money for a car for one of the women who has been in long term contact with the Aunties and, thanks to you all, $5000 was raised which is incredible. In fact, we raised more money than was needed so we asked some of the donors if they would mind us using the leftover money on other things, and they said yes. When you earmark a donation for something specific, we will always make sure that it gets spent on that thing, or else ask for your personal permission to put it towards another need.


A woman and her two teenagers were spirited away from a violent home and arrived at refuge with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, so we put an urgent call out for clothes and people responded enthusiastically – Jackie took eight large bags of good quality clothing to the refuge for them, and some of the other women were also able to get things they needed. Pickups were done by the teenage son of one of our Aunties – he’d got himself into a minor bit of bother and needed to do some community service so we were thrilled to be able to help his whanau by getting him to help Jackie.

One of the women who has moved to another city recently has gotten involved in the local community gardens so we are paying her yearly membership fee so that she always has heaps of fresh veggies to hand.

Auntie Mel has organised our big storage unit so it is almost like a shop – women visit and choose the things they need for themselves and their kids. Some of them find this overwhelming – the idea that they Have What They Need is a new experience for many. It often makes them emotional and, to be honest, we all get a bit emotional at board meetings with Auntie Jackie tells us these stories.


One of the women who has left the refuge some time ago has moved to another city so we sent her off with bedding and linen, and also put her in touch with good people who will support her there. We’ve also found good contacts for another long time Auntie’s friend in a different city – some help with school runs, friendship, and suggestions for a church she can go to.


We’ve connected with a woman who, as well as raising six sons and doing her Master’s degree also has breast cancer. She still deals with abuse from her ex-husband who recently broke into her house and stole money. We helped out with food, petrol and phone credit vouchers to tide her over. We plan to stay in touch with her and will offer her meals after her breast reconstruction surgery. A couple of Aunties have already given her lingerie vouchers so she can buy new bras when the time comes.


Auntie Jackie attended a CYFS meeting with one of the women and advocated for her and her kids with really positive results. And there were cooking classes at the refuge – another way of helping women feel good about their ability to take care of themselves and their families.


We’re about roses as well as bread – so in the “roses” category, Auntie Jackie took one of the women to the Auckland Writers Festival – she loved it, and we’re keen to keep taking women to see cultural events that inspire them and make them feel part of the world again after they leave refuge.


And more roses  – literally – we’ve found someone who is keen to help Dorothy with the garden at the refuge so once all the necessary safety checks are done, there should be some more pruning and planting on the way so there’s something beautiful to look at out the window.


That was May – now go have a look at what we hope to do in June. And thank you, as always, for helping us meet needs with aroha.


What the Aunties Did: Jan, Feb 2017


School bags, blue hair, swimming lessons, food, phones and new collaborations – so much has happened in the last couple of months in the life of the Aunties we haven’t even officially reported in. Aunty Jackie has done a fine job of staying in touch with everyone, but here’s the official summary of what the Aunties did so far this year.

Let’s go back to Christmas when the Aunties pulled out all the stops to give women and kids in refuge as much seasonal glee as we could. There were presents for 86 kids (they were given three gifts each and the look of wonder in their eyes would warm your heart till Easter) and we also gave 20 luxury food hampers to women to make their Christmas special, too.

Since then we’ve also tried to give 2017 the best possible start. The Aunties paid for swimming lessons, and for a parenting course at the refuge. We bought 120 schoolbags, some clothes for a woman and her three children, and socks for another woman and her kids, and ordered some food online for two women. We also paid a phone bill, fixed a woman’s car, and moved furniture into a woman’s new house.

We got some very specific requests – a 13 year old wanted more than anything else to have her hair dyed blue, so we made that happen for her birthday. We provided sewing machines for two women, and we bought cakes for other women having birthdays.

The Aunties are very excited about a couple of new relationships. We are now working with the NZ Prostitutes Collective and we’ve bought toiletries, sanitary products, wipes, undies and food for them. Aunty Jackie goes to visit them once a week to take clothes and hotel toiletries which they make up into packs for street workers – so if you are travelling, grab those little bottles and pass them on to us. Aunty Jackie marched proudly with the NZPC in the Pride Parade in February. (They did her makeup, and she looked hot.)

We’ve also started a relationship with Rainbow Youth – we’ve bought them $400 worth of undies so far.

We’ve also bought mobile phones for the women in refuge – such an important part of keeping them safe – and paid for a woman to have her house valued so she is able to arrange the sale safely while her abuser is still living there.

And we know we’ve filled a lot of people’s hearts with joy – including our own, and yours we hope, too.

So thank you for being part of this, and let’s do some more!





A Day Spent Auntying With The Aunty-In-Charge

Yesterday was a big donations pick up day. I asked a friend, Blair, if he would come and help me. And then I asked him if he’d write about it, in an effort to make other people maybe think about doing it too. These are his words (and I didn’t pay him, I promise).

Jackie Clark is technically the liaison, advocate and founder of The Aunties but really, she is just a force of nature with a mind like a steel trap, a huge heart and the irrepressible gift of the gab. She is also great company so when she indicated she was doing a charity goods pickup, I offered to help. Not out of a sense of obligation but because I knew we’d have fun.

Jackie has a little car and I have a larger wagon so I became the driver. My first pick up was Jackie, and then we were off! Eight pickups across greater Auckland. Jackie had another prized possession firmly in her left hand, a new phone, and she immediately put it to good use activating the GPS navigator. The car was filled with banter as the three of us chatted, organised and directed. Two human voices were competing for airspace with a bossy electronic third that repeatedly ordered us to; ‘Take the first exit at the roundabout’. Jackie soothed and gently mollified the digital harridan as you would a toddler having a tantrum while she simultaneously provided firm directional hand signals to the other, slightly flustered, human occupant. We reach our first destination.

It was clear from the onset that Jackie had prepared the groundwork. Precise instructions on what was acceptable had been delivered and received. Bags were waiting at doors, neatly organised and their contents labelled. These specific instructions were reiterated along with hugs and kisses with the donor. I was offered a welcome coffee and so began a pattern for the day; The items were quickly and efficiently packed into the car within a minute, a beverage offered and a conversation started.

I listened with fascination as interesting people talked on a variety of topics with passion and flair. Jackie can talk and does so but she is also a wonderful listener and responded ably and knowledgeably to whatever topic was under discussion. A wide scope of topics was covered and the way of things dissected with gusto. I listened and learned. I drank my coffee. There was always time before leaving for Jackie to engage with the children, admire a treasured pet/home/piece of art/panoramic view and cuddle a child, pet or both. Less than an hour at each stop would have just been rude!

The playful driving conversational tri-play would then continue as we entered unexplored parts of West Auckland. More pick ups were completed, more lovely people met for the first time. More hugs from Jackie as we left and hand shakes proffered to me. The wagon was filling and so was my bladder after the diuretic effects of multiple cups of coffee. Jackie showed her experience at each stage by declining the offer. Still, tummies were grumbling and it was time to eat.

Three more pickups in the afternoon and we were done. There was no more space in the wagon. It was time to head for home.

The wagon was unpacked into a storage locker. Jackie thanked me again and impressed on me that she wouldn’t have been able to do it without me. I doubt that, having had some insight into her determination and resourcefulness, but I was happy to help and quite honestly, I got more out of helping than she would know. It really was a fun day and it flew by.

People were extraordinarily generous with their donations, time and company. They, for the most part, assiduously followed packing instructions and we were always welcomed in. While we shared plenty of laughs, like when we almost packed a donor’s refuse into the car or when a peacock was spotted posing like a weather-vain on a neighbour’s roof, what left the biggest impression of the day was the love on display. Love from the donors for the people of Auckland in need and love for Jackie and what she does. I was very proud to have helped today and so I’ve decided to help out again whenever Jackie needs me to… or did Jackie decide that… I’m slightly unclear. Anyway, it was great fun and such a rewarding experience.

Thank you Jackie, all the Aunties and the generous donors of Auckland. I had a blast.

Blair Mckinnon



It’s that time of year. A time to give thanks to everyone who helped make 85 kids Xmas a bit brighter.

For those of you unfamiliar with #refugexmas, it goes a bit like this. 3 years ago, a group of us decided we would give all the kids living in the refuge a bit of Xmas. It was all a bit overwhelming for everyone involved. I seem to remember 200 people bought presents for 40 or so kids. Some bought more than one, so we were inundated. Logistically, I was a bit out of my depth.  I matched up each person with a child, we had a huge wrapping party, and we made up banana box food parcels for the women, I went to my first refuge xmas party and this is what that looked like.  Things have changed somewhat. I now coordinate a larger group of Aunties, I think I’m a bit better at the SM stuff, and we are doing Xmas for more kids than ever, this year from 4 refuges and a whānau house that cares for families in crisis. This year, I tried a different tack. I asked people to send in gifts, so that there would be enough for heaps of kids, and also for birthdays throughout the next year. I had no idea if this would work or not, but it seemed to, as most things do in their own way. There were groups of people having buying sprees and people popping gift cards in the post. The pressies were stored in the storage unit – another new development – and we had a gathering of eight of us to wrap them all a couple of days before the refuge xmas party. The rest were delivered to their respective refuges, and it was done for another year.

Now, to be honest, it’s a logistical challenge. I’m learning all the time about what works best, and what not to do. For example: the willy nilly sending of presents works extremely well. For four years, I’ve been relying on people’s good will and generosity and none of you have let me down yet. What didn’t work so much was my disorganisation. Next year, bigger storage bins so I can sort age groups as I go, more effectively. And maybe start a little earlier. Provide presents for teenaged boys, who are notoriously difficult to get pressies for and who are easily forgotten in all the fuss. I’m also convinced I should coordinate people to send as many pressies as possible so that we have enough to take a good big load down to the City Mission.

So that’s next year. Be warned! I’ll be asking for pressies from October!

And back to this year. So many people to thank. Xmas has become, effectively, the only time when Aunties actually get to do stuff together, if in small groups. The shopping for the womens xmas baskets, and the wrapping. And that’s it. Other than that, Aunties don’t get to volunteer, really. I just ask for money and stuff, and it arrives and then I do the stuff that needs doing. So it’s a bit of a special thing, this Xmas malarkey. A lovely lovely thing.

Thank you to Paul and Abbey, Rachel and Chantel, Rosie and Alex who came to do the shopping for the women’s gift baskets. The fastest shopping trip yet, and the baskets turned out beautifully.

Thank you Hillary and Gloria and Alex for the gorgeous soaps and toiletries which were put in the staff gift baskets. They look forward to them every year!

Thanks to my lovely Helene who’s having a really rough time right now, and despite all that, gave me booty for the women – which got waylaid and delivered to the City Mission instead…..

Many thanks to DePaul House in Northcote who donated presents which were given to the City Mission, because we had so many.

Thank you to Mary, Kerry, Alison, Romilly, Susan, Trish and Claudine who sorted and wrapped all the presents and put up with me panicking and flapping my hands with said panic. We got it done though…..

Thanks to Kirsti for delivering a new bike to two very happy kids.

Thank you to Heather who coordinated presents for a couple of refuges in Christchurch, and got Sherry to bring another huge suitcase up for us as well!

Thanks to everyone who sent presents. Really. You went completely over the top, and actually that was just what was needed, and worked beautifully.

Thank you in particular to: Fliss, Penny,  Hariata, Rikki, Kate, Claire, Allison, Siobhan, Victoria, Leonie, Rachel, Jenni, Phil, Julie, Michéle, Jackson, and everyone who sent, or brought me,  presents for the kids. Some of you sent named boxes, some of you didn’t, and that’s likely something I need to do next year. Take a note of everyone’s names so I can thank you effectively!

Many thanks to everyone who put money in the givealittle so that we could fill the womens baskets and buy them PNS gift vouchers. Thank you Sue, Toni, B, Caroline, Sabine, David, Suzi, Tracey, Ceara, Georgie, Heather, and Jen amongst many anonymous others.

Many thanks to everyone who helped to make these women and kids have a better xmas than their last ones. And thanks especially to those of you who gave gifts and stuff for J, who has just had her baby and is feeling a little overwhelmed, and A* who is in a new home, free from pain (she calls her past her book of hurt), and absolutely thrilled with everyone’s kindness to her. Thanks to many of you, she not only has Xmas but also furniture!

Thank you above all to Michéle, Jackson, Elaine, Phil, Paul and Julie who, every day, have sent me gifs to cheer me on, and been such a bloody asset, I cannot be more thankful. They have made all of this so much easier.

Three years ago, all of this, The Aunties, had only just begun. Now, well, so much change has happened. So many good things have happened. So much love from you all to the women. Xmas is a time for kids, traditionally, but in this case, it really makes a difference for their mums, too. Thank you.